When the 2015-16 school year began, everyone was thinking about new beginnings, but no one was more than Jenna Pitstick and Dylan Foster, co-presidents and founders of the Social Equality Alliance, who were preparing to start a new club. Dylan says, “We initially wanted to start a Gay-Straight Alliance, but we realized there were other things on campus that we needed to address, so we lumped all of those ideas together to form the Social Equality Alliance, or ‘SEA.'”
The club is still young, as it’s only existed on campus for almost one school year. However, SEA has already made a positive difference at Graceland. Dylan says, “We’ve had several large events that focused on mental health, gender identity, and sexual orientation.” SEA also sponsored a watch party after the Iowa caucuses. The event was very open and friendly, as voters from different political parties put aside their differences, played games, and discussed the voting process. Anthony Ginger, co-president of SEA, says, “It’s about building on the community that’s already here at Graceland to make it more accepting. A big part of our goal is educating people about social issues. We discuss different topics at each meeting, like islamophobia, homelessness, environmentalism, or LGBT issues.”
One of SEA’s greatest strengths is their ability to collaborate with other organizations on campus. Jenna says, “We sponsor an event once a month called Quincy and Friends with the help of the Academic Student Council. We bring in dogs from the community and therapy dogs to promote mental health during the school year. We also collaborated with GSG, Campus Ministries, and the Black Student Union for the ‘Piece of the Puzzle’ event,” which was a discussion about diversity.
The greatest obstacle SEA faces is lack of student awareness. A lot of students don’t even know the club exists, which affects attendance. However, SEA is off to a great start and won’t let their strong momentum slow down- they already have several ideas for next year. Jenna says, “We’re going to focus on getting as many students as possible to vote. No matter who they vote for, it’s important that their voice is heard. Most young people don’t think their vote matters.” Anthony adds, “We’re thinking about doing a whole week for National Coming Out Day involving mini-events each day of the week. We’ll also continue Quincy and Friends.”
Although SEA is wrapping up the school year, they have one more big event planned: The Coming Out Party on Tuesday, April 12 from 7-9pm in the Shaw Lobby. The first part of the event will be educational. People who have experienced coming out will describe what it was like for them. The second part will be a party! There will be games, food, a photo booth, and much more. Jenna says, “Anyone can attend the event. It’s not just for students who are gay, and it’s not just for students who want to come out.”
To join SEA and contribute to campus changes, join the Facebook group “GU Social Equality Alliance,” or go to the meetings, which occur every other week on Thursdays from 4-5pm in the South America’s room in the MSC. Contact any of the leaders for more information! Jenna says, “If you are willing to learn about differences and diversity, you are welcome!”
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